Bishops extend virtual worship timeframe until July 1

The bishops issued the following notice on May 12, 2020, to clergy and congregational and diocesan leadership, regarding extension until July 1, 2020, of the directive for no in-person public worship or gatherings in churches.

May 12, 2020

Dear People of the Diocese of Massachusetts,

As the Commonwealth continues to face high numbers of COVID-19 fatalities and of new cases reported, it remains vitally important for us to care for our neighbors and ourselves by maintaining strict levels of physical distancing.  While we regret this ongoing necessity, we know it is the safe and loving course of action.  

Current restrictions on in-person public worship and gatherings in our churches are now extended until July 1, 2020. 

Those preparing recorded or online worship services should continue to follow previously issued guidelines available here.  Essential office and maintenance functions and life-sustaining neighborhood ministries may continue, provided these are carried out while maintaining recommended physical distancing and cleaning and hygiene protocols, and respecting the maximum number of people allowable under the orders of Governor Baker. 

This extension of the timeframe for virtual worship is coordinated with that of Bishop Douglas Fisher of the Diocese of Western Massachusetts, with whom we are preparing guidelines for the resumption of church activities in stages that will be determined by public health indicators.  We anticipate that these joint guidelines will be available next week.  Please be mindful that preparations for phased resumption of services and activities will take careful preparation and planning at every level of leadership in our dioceses and congregations.

We are profoundly grateful for the dedication and creativity with which congregations are responding to provide alternative, virtual opportunities for worship and fellowship, as well as continued ministry to the most vulnerable in our communities.  

Last Friday the church calendar commemorated Julian of Norwich, who is perhaps most widely remembered for the assurance given the mystic by Jesus:  "All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well."  May we, too, know the assurance of Christ's nurturing and sustaining love, spoken to us in our troubled time. 

Faithfully, in Christ,

The Rt. Rev. Alan M. Gates
The Rt. Rev. Gayle E. Harris